a life where your kids are confident, happy, & healthy from spending more time outside...where they look at trees instead of screens & they gain an understanding of our worldly rhythms...a place where kids of all ages can be themselves & gather to learn & encourage each other with out the pressure of schedules & tests.
Forest school is an educational philosophy that takes a holistic approach to learning. (You don’t even have to be in an actual forest!) If you’re looking for a structured group, this is not it. Things learned in forest school are child-directed and play-based, no matter the age. Barefoot University takes this approach while incorporating STEM and community service, and nature based activities each week.
Our meetups are all about the exploration of our surroundings - which include practical nature activities that are hands-on and also stem off into other subjects of learning. No adult or child can fail at forest school.
Children in forest school experience and grow from taking risks (climbing trees, tool usage, fire starting, self exploration, and other risk play) These types of activities are extremely important in building and developing stronger communication skills, growing in self awareness and confidence, and promoting the overall health of the child. Studies show children who are allowed to participate in nature and risk activities are mentally and physically healthier, score higher in academics, have better levels of concentration, and are overall happier.
• Focus on creating a connection between the student and nature by encouraging exploration, risk play, respect for nature, and participation within achievable tasks and activities.
• Help students develop confidence and creativity by teaching practical outdoor skills and cycles of nature.
• Meet regardless of the weather or season (with the exception of severe storms.) Research has shown that being outside and active improves mental and spiritual health, communication skills, and social relationships, among other things.
• Develop confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting.
• Believe that risk is more than just potential for physical harm, but a place for holistic growth. There are risks in everything we do, and we grow by overcoming them.
• Work with the resources they’ve got: the wilder and more natural the better.
• Are where children learn to assess, appreciate, and take risks; making sensible and informed decisions about how to tackle the activities and experiences they encounter.
• Is a long-term process of regular sessions rather than 'one-off’ or infrequent visits.
• Has been defined by Forest School England as,
“…an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults, regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem, through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.
Our communities meet each week for forest school activities and nature exploration. Our leaders don’t teach, parents are their child's teacher. Each child receives a BU nature journal that aligns with our weekly focus. How you incorporate that is up to your family. Our communities also do field trips and community service projects throughout the year that often align with our activity themes.
Families are encouraged (but not required) to participate with your community. Our motto is “do what’s best for your family.” You’re welcome to go off on your own for each activity or stay with the group.
Field trips create more opportunities for in-depth learning. Field trips range from visiting a different park to explore, fossil hunt, hike, etc. to visiting a local farm, camping, and visiting nature centers. Every community is different so leaders will customize these meet-ups to best suit each group.
Barefoot University believes that children also learn through serving others. Each community will also have one community service opportunity per month for families to participate in. These projects will keep the theme of each season & rhythm, when able. Some examples may be, raking leaves for shut-ins during the fall, park clean up days, and volunteering at an animal farm or garden. The possibilities and benefits of community service projects are endless!
Each community is led by a team of volunteer parents. All of our groups meet once a week in an outdoor classroom for the activity that aligns with our yearly rhythm.
Our weekly activities teach nature-based sciences and other skills relating to the outdoors. They are designed with the flexibility to range across all subjects of learning. Even though our focus is nature, that expands to cover art, citizenship, local history, math, science, life skills, physical education, critical thinking, and more!
Leaders help facilitate the meet-ups but parents are their child‘s teachers! It’s important for parents to know what the activity is beforehand. If your children need additional instructions or you want to take the activity deeper, we encourage you to do that. If you’re looking for a group that makes everyone sit in a circle and learn a lesson, BU may not be for you. We encourage participation but we encourage free play and exploration too!
Kids of all ages gather together to play and do hands-on activities each week. We designed our program so each activity has the potential for more (or less) in-depth learning based on the child’s skill level, age, and parental preference.
Communities meet in the same park every week to allow families to observe seasonal changes, become comfortable in their outdoor classrooms, and take a closer look at nature through continued exposure to the same area.
BU activities and educational philosophy are designed with three developmental stages in mind. We’ve found that children of different ages have different learning methods.
We believe parents are the teachers, so our activities are designed to be a starting point for your family to explore more. Our nature journals and members section has additional activity ideas and lessons for you to explore deeper into each weekly theme on your own. Community leaders facilitate activities but we leave the learning to the kids and teaching to the parents.
Barefoot University believes meeting in all types of weather builds resilient, well-rounded kids. We only cancel forest school if there is a severe weather alert (i.e.: tornadoes) or lightning. Have you ever heard the saying, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing?" We believe that! Always dress for the weather and don’t skip out because it’s too wet or too cold. Some of our best forest school days happened on less-than-perfect weather days.
Just like nature has natural rhythms, Barefoot University has five yearly rhythms we rotate through. Each one is named after an element of nature and weekly activities all align with the element. We meet 36 weeks a year and our rhythms are broken into three 12 week cycles with different areas of focus within the rhythm. Learning is based on the yearly rhythms plus the natural changes of each season. This gives your child the opportunity to go more in-depth, spark interests in different sciences, and gain a better understanding of the elements and seasons over time.
Every five years, we start over again with new activities. This repetition helps set the foundation for every level of learning through experience and play.
Earth focuses on seasonal changes relating to geology, botany, zoology, foraging, earth sciences, minerals, fossils, and soil studies.
Cycle 1: Land Cycle • 2: Trees & Animals • Cycle 3: Bugs & Plants
Fire focuses on seasonal activities of survival skills, first aid, orienteering, outdoor safety, self-reliance, and physical skills.
Cycle 1: Trail Basics • Cycle 2: Navigation & Time • Cycle 3: Food & Shelter
Water focuses on seasonal changes relating to physics, marine life, reptiles & amphibians, water habitats, rain & erosion, and movement.
Cycle 1: Water Basics • Cycle 2: Hydrology & Environments • Cycle 3: Aquatic Life
Sky focuses on seasonal changes in the sky, astronomy, meteorology, environmental and space sciences, and flying life.
Rhythm Barefoot is a little taste of all the rhythms. Our favorite rhythm focuses on the senses, imagination, and play. In true forest school fashion, Rhythm Barefoot sparks spontaneity, fun, and creativity for everyone involved.